O Log - Wyoming

[29-Apr-04] 

    Just sent in my entry for the 1000 Day. This is one of the more fun events on the US calendar. Even tho its a few months away, its fun to start thinking about it.

    Of course, this year it will include the WOC team trials. I don't have any chance to make the WOC team, but I'm trying to prepare for the event as if I did. It is more fun that way, and I don't think doing so can hurt in terms of improvement of my orienteering. (If I did have a chance, I probably would not blog my thoughts -- but if my thoughts help others improve, that is good).

    The "conventional wisdom" (that I've heard) is that raw speed will be important due to the fast, open terrain. And in my experience, I always under perform in Laramie due to my slowness -- it is usually a handful of ranking scores I have to drop, where "runners" are gleeful about going out there and racking up the points. I had even thought of running my age this year, but it seems more important in the long run to take on the challenge, even if my ranking tanks. So, I've been working on speed. We'll see if we're any faster this time around. Of course, the entire field is probably working on speed, so it might be a case of running to stay even. (Moreover, I'm not navigating very well at what feels like a faster speed. There is more to it than just doing intervals).

    But I think you have to be wary of the "conventional wisdom". My instincts say to me -- woe be to the competitor who thinks too much of speed and forgets the other stuff. My instincts tell me that the orienteering will be more difficult than anticipated, and more difficult than has previously been experienced out there. Will it be so challenging to make it the determining factor over speed? It could. If I were say, seeded about 8th or so, and figured I had about a 10-20% chance of making the team, I'd bet against the field and train technique, technique, technique at my existing speed. I would work route choice, route choice, route choice, and gamble that my best chance is that the course setter has set a course where brains can beat brawn. Of course, the top guys are still going to orienteer well at their faster speeds, but this is how a game theorist would look at the problem. (Also, for the first time ever, I have ordered the old maps of the area. This is one of my verboten rules, never order the maps as O is still about the thrill of discovery, but my goal here is to simulate what I would do as close as possible).

    And woe be to the competitor who neglects race endurance. I think the classic is going to be on the grueling side. I think a 12-15K run in terrain, with a map (line O) at race pace once every 7-10 days is indicated. Unfortunately, we are not getting this sort of training at A meets, and will have to make it up ourselves. (The short A meets this season, I think, are actually hurting, and I'll be paying for it when I head to Europe this year (I'm going to feel over my head running my age) -- but that is an editorial for another day ... I'll be running M21E in Europe, mainly for the training benefit, as I feel it is absolutely essential).

    Another factor, of course, is the altitude (~3000m asl). Altitude kills me, and the trials could not come at a worse time for my altitude profile, which is usually to feel kinda yucky the first day, and deteriorate to downright sickness by about day 5. By the last day, I usually feel well enough to put in a very good race (and have great training runs when I get home will all those extra red blood cells, which usually die off the day before an important race back home ...).

    If I had a chance to make the team, I would go out a minimum of one week before, possibly 2. Not only would I adjust better, I could train in the terrain. I've prodded one hopeful to do this -- I wonder if anyone will. I was actually planning to do this myself, but there is only so much time and money to play fantasy O.

    It would seem a bit bizarre to go train at altitude simply to better your chances at the trials, when altitude performance is not relevant for the actual WOC in Sweden. By doing this, you could actually bump someone off the team who might be better qualified for good races in Sweden, but was unable (for financial reasons, for example), to prepare at altitude for the trials. But how much does the altitude really affect the top runners anyway? Could it be a deciding factor? An interesting philosophical topic to explore some other night ...

    This does, tho, bring up the whole relevancy issue of Wyoming vis-a-vis Sweden. My initial thoughts on this, when Laramie was selected -- was yuck -- not even close to relevant, and certainly the least favorable to me, who does best in "grunge O". But the more I've thought about it, and the more I've learned about O, the more I feel it was an excellent choice -- my gut is that it is forcing people to think about training more (or at least it should be; that has been my experience), and that has to be a Good Thing in the long run for the team. I think the only way I can whine about Wyoming is if some dark horse who is really fast yet is normally ranked much lower than the field takes a spot. I don't think this will happen, but we all know what Wyoming is like, and we should be motivated to work really hard to make sure it does not. So no whining allowed, at least that is the way I'm looking at it.

    Well, I've done better at altitude more recently in my career, but none of it was as high as Laramie. I'll get a dose in Europe this year (about 1600m asl); that probably won't be relevant.

    In any case, looking forward to the races. It is a thrill just to be able to compete in the trials -- how many sports to the fans actually get to play on the same field as the top people. It is really like being in the dugout at the World Series, at least that's the way I look at it.

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